Friday, October 31, 2014

Ok, so we have a bus. Now what?

We have officially secured a spot to park the bus! Where we can work on converting it, even!  The spot is great.  It is on our route home from work and it's "off the beaten path".  By this I mean that it is parked in a trucking/trailer storage yard where it seems acceptable to bang a hammer on things, saw stuff in half, and generally make a ruckus. 

Snug in it's spot between a boat and an RV!
Now all we need to do is acquire all of the tools to start the build.  There is no power in the storage lot, so we need a generator for construction juice.  Luckily, I found a good deal on a 4000 watt generator on craigslist. Aside from having some of the tools already (hand tools, circular saw, sawzall), we have acquired a few important additions like an 18v impact driver (worth its weight in gold) and an angle grinder. 
The impact driver rules!
As much as we want to start the build, we realize that we need to create plans before we start. This means designing a floor layout, measuring dimensions, drawing electrical and plumbing diagrams, general research on how to actually turn a bus into a tiny house, and photo-shopping various color schemes for the outside of the bus. This all very fun, but we can't wait to get started on actually building this thing!

We have both used Sketchup in the past as a software platform to make some plans, but Cammy found a program called Sweethome 3D, which we both found easier for making basic floor plans.  We've been brainstorming some ideas for the layout and I think we have finally come to a consensus.  While most bus-convertors create a small, closed-off bedroom in the back of the bus, we decided we wanted a more open floor plan where we could see from front to back with no tall walls.  Therefore, we have decided to scrap the back bedroom and instead leave open space in the back for the huskies to be able to spread out, and for general lounging and other shenanigans.   
The layout when we got the bus (before taking exact measurements). Not bad, but not quite what we wanted!
We also decided on a few other features.  We want to move the existing passenger seat up next to the drivers seat, we want to shorten the wrap around dinette and convert to a small wooden booth, we want a decent sized bathroom (which we have decided to move all the way to the back of the bus were it will have wrap around windows), we want to extend the kitchen counters by a foot, we want to shorten the width of the couch to create more floor space, and we want a designated a place next to the kitchen where we can install a wood burning stove.  We plan to take this buffalo of a bus off-grid, and we don't want no stinking electric heater!  Besides, I've lived with enough baseboard heaters in my life that if I live with one more, I might smash it to pieces.  In the layout below, the woodstove is just left of the stove.
One of the various layout configurations we made in Sweethome 3D. This one is just a draft, we've since changed where we wanted the bathroom and closet to be. The passenger side of the bus we think is going to be very similar to how it is here though.
Other interesting ideas for the bus include installing a horse-trough style galvanized tub in the bathroom (we are thinking of enclosing the tub by building a stone/tile platform all around ), possibly using slabs of beetle-kill pine from Colorado as our kitchen countertops, installing a composting toilet, and setting up a complete solar system that should appease Ra, the sun god. 

One inspiration for our tub. From tinyhouseswoon.com
So, after brainstorming, drawing up some initial plans, and inspecting the interior of our bus, we are starting to realize that the beginning phase of our build isn't actually going to be a build at all. Rather, it is going to be more of a mission of deconstruction/destruction.  Ultimately, we are going to tear everything out of the bus including the carpet, the subfloor, and most of the existing walls and furniture and start from scratch.  Stay tuned for Cammy smashing things with a hammer and kicking down walls!

Tree casualties. From Liftopia.com

Beetle kill pine end product.  From sustainablelumber.com
Beetle kill pine products are an interesting option. In case you don't know, beetle kill pine is the result of the mountain pine beetle (MPB) (Dendroctonus ponderosae) epidemic that has wreaked havoc on millions of acres of pine forests (especially ponderosa pine and lodgepole pine) in Colorado and elsewhere.  This epidemic is the result of  extensive summer drought, high tree stand densities, and warmer winters that have allowed for greater survival of MPB and has facilitated their destruction.  Take that climate change opponents! These beetle kills result in huge swaths of dead tree stands, and it has opened a market for salvage logging. The logging removes dead trees from the forest and the resulting timber can still be milled and used for lumber.  Actually, beetle kill pine (aka blue stain pine) is a gorgeous wood with rich, bluish, swirling colors that are caused by a fungus (Grosmannia clavigera) that infests the wood as a result of beetles boring the wood and allowing the fungus be introduced.  Beetle kill wood products are structurally sound and can be used in many applications.  Plus, the wood looks cool!

Whole hillside of beetle kill.  From Liftopia.com


  1. Next on your project list: recreate this video Ft. Collins style:


    After that, bring that bus east and kick it at the beach!

    1. Whoa! Did you just, know that video existed and were reminded of it? Too funny!